Hi, Communies! First things first: thanks to lapacifidora for filling in for me last week while I was visiting my grandmother and attending an academic lecture about Inspector Spacetime. (I was going to do a writeup of the lecture and post it here, but now that a week's gone by I think I just need to admit it's not going to happen. So instead I'll just point you to my own journal, where I compiled the posts I live-Tweeted during the lecture. There's a video recording (made by fellow Communie randomthunk) there too, if my Tweets aren't enough for you.) I'd also like to thank the makers of AutoHotKey for giving me the ability to type <cite>Law & Order</cite> with a single keystroke, which was a real lifesaver.
Let me start by saying that I am a huge Law & Order fan—the mothership, that is, not the spinoffs—so of course this episode was right in my wheelhouse. I particularly loved that they went to the trouble of getting Leslie Hendrix, who played medical examiner Dr. Elizabeth Rogers on most if not all of the New York-based Law & Order series, to play the medical ex-yam-iner in this one, and that they used the real CHUNG CHUNG (or BONG BONG or DUN DUN) sound effect instead of a simulation. Michaels Ironside and K. Williams were great too. But who cares what I think? Let's get to the reviews!
- Luke Gelineau of TV Equals called "Basic Lupine Urology" one of the "most unique" episodes Community has ever done. ("Most unique"? OK, whatever.) "They’ve done lots of 'special' episodes in the past, but sometimes I feel like it’s at the expense of the humor. Thankfully, that definitely wasn’t the case with tonight’s parody of Law and Order." There was basically nothing he didn't like about it, though he admits to being unsure what to make of Starburns's death.
- In his review of "Pillows and Blankets" a couple of weeks ago, Alan Sepinwall of HitFix wrote that Community's parody episodes tend to work best when they're Community episodes first and parodies second, but he calls "Basic Lupine Urology" the exception to that rule. "There's no real character arc to speak of … but the transplanting of the classic 'Law & Order' formula to the halls of Greendale is so perfectly done that it carried the episode." He concedes that the episode wasn't particularly deep, and allows that how much you enjoy it may depend on how familiar and fond you are of Law & Order, but overall he felt the aping of the classic L&O style was so perfect that it easily carried the episode.
- Todd VanDerWerrf of the A.V. Club agreed that the episode was an "expertly done goof" on Law & Order, but felt that it suffered somewhat by failing to move beyond the genre pastiche, and wondered if some of the jokes were so specific that they would fly over the head of anyone who never saw an episode of Law & Order. He also didn't care for Annie's premature celebration in the courtroom, saying, "I’m just sympathetic to that Todd fellow." Nevertheless, "he liked it an awful lot," and said that "comedically [it was] one of the two or three strongest episodes of the season." He gave it a letter grade of A-minus.
- Brian Collins of Badass Digest is, to a certain degree, one of those fans Werff VanDerTodd was worried about; he's only ever seen one complete episode of Law & Order. (The one guest-starring Chevy Chase, appropriately enough.But despite that, he was familiar enough with the concept and some of the basic tropes of that series to get most of the jokes. In fact, he says, he called it the "funniest episode of the season" and said he "can’t think of a single joke that didn’t really work for me." He makes the interesting observation that the two actors who had the least to do in this episode were Chevy and Gillian Jacobs, who are the only two members of the main cast to have appeared on Law & Order or, in Gillian's case, one of its spinoffs. Like other reviewers, he pointed out that the episode was light on character beats—"apart from Jeff springing to action because he thought Annie wanted him to come after hours to the biology lab for sex"—but suggested that perhaps the surprise death at the end of episode was the "Jeff and Britta fucking" moment that Dan Harmon says the writers always try to work into every episode. Collins said later on Twitter that the episode "featured a more compelling mystery than The Raven," which movie he urges you to skip.
- The Head Geek at Geek Furious was impressed by the precision and faithfulness of the parody. "It was nothing but a joy to watch," and watch it he (she? darn these pseudonymous reviewers!) did, "four times before I even sat down to write this." S/he gave the episode a rating of 96 out of 100.
- Matthew Guerruckey of Drunk Monkeys gave the episode a letter grade of A. "When an episode has me laughing from the moment its title is announced … that’s a pretty good sign that I'll be down for all of it.… We might as well slap an “A” on this thing and call it a day so I can get to bed before midnight." But he makes the case the episode earned the A, not just because the parody was so true to the Law & Order aesthetic, but also because the performances by Michael K. Williams, who "for the first time all season … really gelled with the rest of the cast," and Jim Rash, the "Season Three MVP" who "continues to bring the most to every little moment he has in each episode." Guerruckey has a unique take on Starburns's death: "Now Joel McHale will never get to pronounce the word Star-burns in that weird, oddly specific way that only he does … it weirded me out every time I heard it." OK then!
- There were a few things Ron Martin of 411mania.com—which uses the same promo pic from "Paradigms of Human Memory" for every review; what's up with that?—didn't like about the episode: that we saw so little of Britta and (especially) Pierce; Annie's celebration dance; and that Starburns was killed off instead of Leonard or Garrett. But other than that it was all sunshine and lollipops. " He thought the Law & Order pastiche was excellent—"every week I tell you that Community does the best novelty episodes on TV and this week backs that statement up"—but he also liked seeing all the recurring characters, especially Todd, and that the study group named their yam, "Pam." He gave it a rating of 8.5 out of 10.
- Andrea Speed of cxPulp, on the other hand, though Annie's premature victory dance was "pretty great." But that's hardly the only thing she liked about it; in fact, she admits "it’s hard for me to single out what I liked best, as there’s a lot of great stuff in this episode." She finds it difficult to say exactly why she found so much of it so funny, but I think it probably had something to do with her description of the episode as, "just wall to wall glorious silliness." She gave it 4.5 cxPulp site icons out of five.
- Alyssa Rosenberg of Think Progress had a unique—and by unique I mean not just among the reviews I read but also, I suspect, among every other person who ever has or ever will watch it—take on the episode: "I thought [it] did a really nice job of exposing the ridiculous things we let people get away with when they have badges or the power of the district attorney’s office behind them." She's always been troubled at the way cop shows tend to legitimize a certain level of police brutality by showing it performed by characters we care about, and by the way those shows convey the idea that police science is precise and unbeatable, and she feels that by poking fun at those tropes, it encourages viewers to "look at the ridiculous things we dignify"in the name of promoting police power. She also says of The Avengers, a screening of which she attended last night, "it is awesome." Meanwhile, Rosenberg's fellow progressive, Matthew of Polentical, said this was "a much more even week than last, with plot, characterization, and absurdist flights-o’-fancy—" At this point, he shows a screencap of the Dean hula hooping in his office. "—working fairly consistently from start to finish." But he's not sure what to make of the death of Star-Burns, whom he liked having on the show.
- Matt Landsman of the Faster Times called the episode "sheer genius." He literally didn't have one negative thing to say about any of it, nor about the show as a whole. "I think I use the word 'perfect' a lot when I talk about Community, but no one can disagree it isn’t totally deserved." Tell that to Nielsen Media Research, Matt.
- Andrea Towers of the Voice of TV was likewise effusive in her praise for the episode ("What worked? Everything.") and the show as a whole ("Community, I love you."). Like other reviewers, she pointed out that there wasn't much character development to be found. But she was OK with that: "sometimes, it’s okay to just have an episode that’s silly or goofy, one that doesn’t really cause us to think about a character’s inner workings too much." But she thought the episode was less ingenious than the episode of 30 Rock that followed it, which many explain why she only gave "Basic Lupine Urology" an A-minus.
- Henry Hanks of CNN's Marquee blog said the idea of parodying Law & Order was "not exactly the freshest idea," but that Community's take on the show was "still pretty hilarious." And despite that lack of freshness, he "wouldn't mind seeing a sequel to this parody like we did with paintball. Jeff, Annie, Troy and Abed fit very well into these roles."
- Xander Markham is another one of those people who is not particularly familiar with Law & Order, but nevertheless he considers last night's episode "by some distance the funniest episode since Community returned from hiatus, and possibly the season," even given his assumption that he missed many of the jokes." Humor aside, he also thought Todd was used much more effectively than in his debut, and that Jeff's asking for a mistrial was "a much more elegant way of showing how the character has evolved without the sentimental music and big speeches that have made equivalent moments elsewhere feel so laborious." He was somewhat disappointed not to see more of Britta (whose one scene was "hysterically funny") and Shirley, but apparently was just fine with not seeing more of Pierce, since he doesn't mention that character at all.
- Oh, here's another non-watcher of Law & Order. (You guys are missing out! Law & Order is the best.) But like all the others who've made this same shameful confession, that didn't prevent Jennifer Marie of A Still and Quiet Conscience from enjoying the episode or writing in excess of 3,000 words about it. She observed that this episode offered another instance (citing :Investigative Journalism" and "Intro to Political Science") of Jeff helping Annie realize when her ambition has led her astray. She also points out that Jeff gives himself too little credit; he tell Annie she should live by her code instead of being like him, without realizing that he was the one who recognized they were about to convict an innocent man and stepped up to do something about it. "He keeps thinking of himself as that guy we met in the pilot episode, but he's not."
- Ryan Schwartz writes in his Television and Film Blog, "Basic Lupine Urology' was a perfect episode and, dare I say it, an episode that might actually get noticed by Emmy voters." He particularly admired how the creators were able to so hew so closely to the Law & Order aesthetic without giving up its own identity. But he wonders if maybe killing Starburns was a bit much. "When Troy, Abed, Jeff and Annie are all aware of this meth lab on wheels and don't say anything, there has to at least be a sense of guilt." But since the show has, in his opinion, typically stayed away from showing the repercussions of what the group does or what happens to them, he's worried that we won't see any follow-up, though he's confident that the writers are up to the task if they do confront it.
- Will Pfeifer, Chris Soprych, and Melissa Westphal of the Rockford Register Star Community podcast liked everything about the episode, calling it "completely worth the hype." Pfeifer did have one complaint to make, about Wedd DanVerTorff's A.V. Club review: "The writer's like, 'well, you know, it was really funny, but it didn't quite advance the characters' and this and that, and I'm like, you know, waah waah wahh. An episode this funny…" to which Westphal responded, "aren't there enough episodes to do that?" But they preface that by saying, "no one loves Community like the A.V. Club," so take that, Alan Sepinwall!
- Derek B. Gayle of KSite TV liked the episode very much, but felt that unlike Community's very best episodes, parody or otherwise, "Basic Lupine Urology" lacked "heart," which he defines as "genuine insight into the characters" and the sense that it was "part of a more important journey." He doesn't deny that it was a perfectly executed Law & Order parody, but he feels that it doesn't go much beyond that, and that to the extent that it did—Jeff's epiphany and speech—it felt like a retread of earlier epiphanies and speeches. But other than that, he thought pretty much everything worked. He especially liked that it was "essentially a shot-for-shot remake of a typical Law & Order episode, but with our characters exaggerating how they’d see the characters they’re representing," which he feels went some ways in overcoming the episode's lack of heart: "it works because its characters are well-represented and clearly there."
- Bill Wyman of Slate's Browbeat blog interpreted the episode as a biting satire of Law & Order rather than as a tribute, interpreting the title as an indication that they were, as they say, taking the piss. He even goes so far as to say that the episode, "viewed purely as a police procedural, is streets ahead of any Law & Order episode." But he also says he thinks Law & Order is lame. His hatred of Law & Order aside, he thought the episode was "a finely wrought jewel" and "persuasively plotted." It may also be worth noting that the headline of the story's internal ad called Community "the smartest show on TV."
- Robert Canning of IGN TV called the episode "classic Community." He felt the cast filled their roles—that is, their roles in the pastiche—perfectly, and thought the nuanced references to Law & Order were "outstanding." He rated it a perfect 10 out of 10.
- Like several others, Matt Richenthal of TV Fanatic noticed that this episode lacked the "legitimate character development" typically found in Community's parody episodes, but that doesn't seem to have affected his opinion of the episode. That said, I'm not entirely clear on what his opinion was; early in the review he calls it "downright hilarious," but later he mentions there were "not that many laugh-out-loud moments." What is clear is that he thought it was "an incredible, pitch perfect parody."
- Pete Vonder Haar of the Houston Press Art Attack blog liked the Law & Order spoof much more than he liked the Ken Burns spoof two weeks back. "From the camera work to the the pre-credits bon mot to desperate earnestness of the 'legal' team to the tragic denouement...it all worked perfectly." He adds that spoofing Law & Order isn't that hard, but nevertheless he praises the writer (Megan Ganz) and director (Rob Schrab) for "creating such a dead-on homage." But he thinks they should "dial back the Annie" next week.
- Andrew Lumby of the Filtered Lens gets his review off to a funny start by describing Law & Order as a "legal thriller." Don't get me wrong, I love me some Law & Order, but thrilling it ain't. Anyway, he loved it, giving it a numeric rating of 10 out of 10, and leaving him wondering if there is anything the cast and crew can't do.
- Brent Koepp of Dan Harmon Sucks starts his review by discussing some of his recurring criticisms of the show: that they sometimes misuse their guest stars; that some of the subplots in episodes with multiple storylines are weaker than others; that Pierce's relationship with the group is confusing. But having said that, he goes on to say that "Basic Lupine Urology" had none of those problems. Psych! He felt the plot "flowed impeccably," and found that it still felt like a "normal" Greendale episode despite the parodic trappings. He liked the way the various characters fit in their assigned Law & Order roles. And he felt that what with the many twists and turns, the death of Starburns was the perfect way to end the episode. He gave it an A.
- And speaking of grades, let's wrap up with Kelley Locke of Character Grades, who graded the characters thusly: Jeff & Annie, B (and she remains stridently anti-Jeff/Annie, by the way); Troy & Abed, A-minus; Britta, C-plus. For extra credit, she adds, "Thank god Jim Rash has an Oscar because he’s never, ever, ever going to be nominated for the Emmy he deserves."
Over on the Twitter, there were two Community-related trending topics during the initial airing: Sweet Deans and (much to the annoyance of west coaster Brian Collins) RIP Starburns. (Thanks to millygreen for capturing those screenshots!) Ratingswise, the show was up slightly, earning a 1.4 in the key demo. I'll take it!
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